Research

Flowing Flowers

Granular mixtures with particles of different sizes will often segregate themselves when flowing. In this half-filled rotating drum large red particles and smaller white ones create a stable petal-like pattern. As the drum turns, an avalanche of small particles flows down, forming each white petal. When the avalanche hits the drum wall, a second wave – one of the larger, red particles – flows uphill toward the center of the drum. If the uphill wave has enough time to reach the center of the drum before the next avalanche of smaller particles, then the petal pattern will be stable. Otherwise, the small particles will tend to fall between the larger ones, disturbing the pattern. (Image and research credit: I. Zuriguel et al., source; via reprint in J. Gray)

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